10 facts about Switzerland you haven’t heard about

We usually have a preconceived opinion about a place, even if we haven’t been there. It’s a mix of stereotypes, opinions we hear from other people or pieces of news that got stuck in our memory. Most people associate Switzerland with high living standard, beautiful mountain resorts and great chocolate. But are those connections true? What people actually say about Switzerland? We have asked a non-Swiss person to search online for facts that they find the most surprising and then, to our astonishment, we confirmed that these information are actually true. Here is the collection of 10 most surprising facts about Switzerland.

Most valuable cities in Europe

Geneva and Zurich are the most expensive cities to live in Europe. No other city on the old continent has rents as high as the two Swiss cities. Still, Geneva and Zurich remain popular destinations among business travelers and students. Despite the high prices, the demand for rental apartments in these cities is higher than the supply. Those who don’t know how to find an apartment in Zurich often overpay. A recommended solution is choosing a serviced apartment which provides fully equipped accommodation, including kitchen and bathroom, as well as essential services (cleaning, Internet access) all covered by a reasonable rental price.

Little animals’ welfare

In Switzerland, the well-being of little social pets like guinea pigs, mice, ferrets, fish or canaries is protected by law. It’s considered an abuse to keep just a single social animal in isolation, so the Swiss must own at least a pair of these pets.

CH for Switzerland

Have you ever wondered why Switzerland is abbreviated to CH? It’s because the country’s name in Latin is Confoederatio Helvetica. It dates back to Napoleonic times when Switzerland was called Helvetic Rebublic, the name derived from the Helvetii, a Celtic tribe living in the area of Switzerland before the Roman era.

Switzerland landscape - facts about switzerland

The most Swiss font

You may know the word ‘Helvetica’ not only from history books. It was popularized by the Swiss graphic designer Max Miedinger who used the word to name the font he invented. Helvetica, developed in 1957, has become one of the most heavily used typefaces. Today it has many variations, including versions for Cyrillic, Korean or Hebrew, and is widely used for both private and official communication worldwide.

Ready to protect their safety

Statistics show that Switzerland is one of the safest countries on the planet, although the gun ownership is third highest worldwide after the US and Yemen. According to the Swiss government figures, there is approximately one gun per four residents, and the Swiss do know how to use them – the military service is still compulsory for the male part of the Swiss population. Every young man must complete 18 or 21 weeks of basic training (depending on troop category) as well as annual 3-week-refresher courses. Those who object to military service for reasons of conscience can choose community service instead of military service. Women can enlist in the armed forces as volunteers and their military service is identical in all respects. Surprisingly, the Swiss citizens don’t oppose this tradition. In a referendum carried out in 2013, the Swiss population decided to keep the compulsory military service by 73% of votes.

The guards of Pope

Each unmarried Swiss Catholic male between 19 and 30 years of age who has completed basic training in the military has one more career path open – he can become a personal bodyguard of the Pope. The soldiers protecting the Vatican City are called the Swiss Guards and they come from Switzerland indeed. Their characteristic colorful uniforms have remained unchanged since the inception of the troops in in the 16th century.

Swiss Guards in Vatican - facts about Switzerland

Holy Sundays

Sundays in Switzerland are holy, and evidently not only for religious reasons. Only 38% of the population describe themselves as Roman Catholic, while one fifth don’t identify with any denomination at all. Sundays are protected by a strong tradition that disapproves of undertaking any loud activities that might disturb others, including mowing, doing laundry, washing your car or recycling bottles. On Sundays most shops are closed and many restaurants have their rest day. The Swiss are also strict about the quiet night hours and any loud activity performed after 10 p.m. is frowned upon.

The gender gap

Women did not gain the vote at the federal level until 1971, which makes it the third latest in Europe, outrun only by Portugal (1976) and Lichtenstein (1984). The female part of the population is still underrepresented in the political life. Gender inequality in salaries is also a major problem with around 17% difference in remuneration between men and women in the same position. However, the 2017 Schilling report, shows that the situation is improving and currently one-fifth of new executive positions is taken on by women.

Healthy gourmets

Despite the highest life expectancy in Europe, the healthy Swiss population doesn’t shun stimulants. In a government report from 2012, almost one third of the Swiss citizens said they were smokers. The consumption of marijuana is also not uncommon as it is legal to grow and smoke cannabis but against the law to sell it. The Swiss are also notorious chocoholics. Not only do they consume more chocolate than any other nation in the world, but also they have world’s best chocolate manufacturers at home and a long chocolate tradition. The inventors of milk chocolate Daniel Peter and Henri Nestle were obviously Swiss.

Swiss chocolate

The border you won’t find on the map

The mysterious border known only by the Swiss is called “Röstigraben” and it seperates the German and French speaking parts of Switzerland. The name “Röstigraben” sounds comically for the Swiss. The first part of the term is derived from the Swiss German name for hashed potatoes, rösti, which is considered a typical Swiss German dish, and the second part “Graben” means a rift valley. In this case it concerns the Saane/Sarine River valley in the bilingual Canton of Fribourg separating the linguistic areas.

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